"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Transform Your Plain Masonic Hall Entrance

by Christopher Hodapp

We had a saying around our film production studio for many, many years: "Where do great ideas come from? Somebody else!"

It's a fact of life that not every Masonic temple can be blessed with being architecturally distinctive. In fact, it's the rare Masonic hall built after World War II that isn't either plain, ugly, boring, or downright ghastly.

The featureless glass-wall front entrance to Porter Lodge 137 in Valparaiso, Indiana is typical for late 1950s and 60s generic storefront buildings. At first glance, it could be an accountant's office, a dental clinic, a social security administration branch, or a hundred other types of offices or stores. There was little about it that instantly identified it as a Masonic lodge unless you saw the square and compass signs up at the roofline - which is actually hard to do if you're driving down the street or walking on the sidewalk. 

In fact, the first time I visited the lodge in northern Indiana, I blasted right past it. 


That's not true any more. Thanks to the artistic design abilities of WB John Bridegroom (art director of the Journal of the Masonic Society and proprietor of The Master's Craft, supplier of custom Masonic jewels and more), the lodge's glass foyer was transformed into a truly unique entryway through the miracle of vinyl graphics. 

The actual printing and installation of the vinyl graphics was donated to the lodge by WB Zeno Rossetti.

The result is stunning, and remarkably inexpensive when you consider the enormity of the impact it makes.  Now there's no mistaking what this doorway leads to.

If these particular graphics aren't to your taste or liking, that's okay. Start with a blank sheet of paper or a new Photoshop document, and create one that's more suitable for your lodge. The point is that for just a few hundred dollars, a big graphic like this can completely transform your temple building. And if you hate it next year, the vinyl makes it easy to remove and create a new one!

If your town has lots of foot traffic, the downstairs entry to your temple offers the potential to be both welcoming and informative, even if there's no one inside and the doors are locked. For instance, Orange Grove Lodge 293 in Orange, California sits on a prominent corner on their town square. A Chase bank branch occupies the ground floor, and the lodge is upstairs. 

On weekends, the street is often shut down to cars and turned into a pedestrian mall with outdoor dining. So the lodge uses its glass doors to provide a short FAQ to the public: what's Freemasonry about; what's the point; who can join; the lodge website and Facebook addresses; and who to contact for more information.

On the town square side of the building is the more formal entry to the lodge and Masonic Center upstairs. Instead of more signage, they have a large, circular painted-glass square and compass right at eye level. The symbol is illuminated at night and easy to spot from across the street. 

These graphics act as 24/7 messengers to the public, whether they are providing information or just simply creating a sense of intrigue and wonder to a curious public. 

We still have some members today who cling to the notion that Masons shouldn't ever do anything that even smells like advertising or promotion. This is, of course, balderdash. If you really think our brethren in the 19th century didn't advertise the fraternity, I offer this image of the downtown Masonic temple in Boston in 1895. Bold enough in daylight, it was festooned in so many electric lights that you could have spotted it from low Earth orbit (if you could get there somehow).

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

California Lodge Restarts Its Youth Groups

by Christopher Hodapp

Turlock Masonic Lodge 236 in Turlock, California got some decent coverage in the local paper this morning. The lodge is bringing back their youth groups, which have been dormant for several years now – Job's Daughters for girls, and DeMolay for boys.

From Job’s Daughters and Demolays give young people a space to foster their growth by Pawan Naidu in the Turlock Journal:
Within the lodge they have separate divisions that help young people grow and develop as individuals. Job’s Daughters help young women ages 10-20 while Demolays helps young men ages 9-21.

Former member of Job’s Daughters, Amanda Sargenti Gomez, said she believes one of the most valuable things the organization taught her was the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community.

“A very important thing for me was being active in the community by volunteering. During my term as Honored Queen we collected toys and books to take to Shriner’s Hospital. We also assisted the Masons by serving at their dinner events,” she said.

“I learned many things from my time in Job’s Daughters. First off, respect for myself, my elders and my peers, as well as proper etiquette. Secondly, I learned public speaking and how to run and organize a meeting. These things have been very important as I developed within my career,” said Gomez.

According to former Demolay member James Banta, the Demolays aim to foster that same growth among young men and have a place where they can be among their peers.

“I think young men in particular find comfort knowing there are other people out there that feel the same way they do,” he said

What sets the Demolays apart from other youth organizations is that it gives their members autonomy about what they want to do.

“The members decide what activities they’re going to do. We do have older individuals there to help guide them along, but the members do all the organizing,” said Banta.

The Demolays do not adhere to one religion and accept members of all faiths as long as they agree to the values of the organization.

“We put our values front and center and as long as you transcribe to those values, you’ll be welcomed,” said Banta.


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

UPDATED: Knights Templar GM Removes DGM from Officers' Line

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATED Friday 9/11/2021-
Instead of posting new articles every time a new letter is issued or becomes available, I am adding updates to this original message. This most recent update adds a letter written by David Kussman in response to Templar Grand Master Johnson's demand for his resignation on September 4th. I also include a rebuttal penned by Past Grand Master Nelson this past week.

As Katherine Hepburn famously quipped in The Lion In Winter"What family doesn't have its little ups and downs..."

I was hoping for at least one good news story to post between last week's Grand Encampment vs. Great Priory of America CBCS related drama, but, alas, no. Masonic social media was atwitter over the Labor Day weekend with more drama out of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar in the United States (GEKT). On Friday, September 3rd, Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson issued a letter to his Deputy Grand Master, David J. Kussman, calling for his resignation (image below):

On Saturday, DGM Kussman responded to GM Johnson's demand with the following letter:

(Please note that these letters were posted to a public website that was created to call for a special conclave to deal with issues of the last two weeks. I have not obtained them improperly.)

In response, GM Johnson formally removed DGM Kussman from office on Monday in a letter that was circulated to officers, Past KT Grand Masters and others (image below):

Yes, Kussman's removal is at least partially related to the GPA drama and attempts to negotiate some kind of mutually agreeable truce between the two organizations. The word is that the Grand Encampment officer line will be advanced this coming Saturday, September 11th to fill Kussman's vacancy, and a new Captain General will be appointed.

Meanwhile, Sir Knight Ben Williams has devoted today's episode of his Rocky Mountain Mason Podcast, RMM-060, to explaining the ongoing situation within the GEKT. Ben was named by the immediate Past Grand Master Jeff Nelson to chair the Jurisprudence Committee at the Triennial last week when its appointed chairman was unable to attend. HEAR IT HERE.

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM
My understanding late Wednesday is that Sir Knights Bolstad and Harper shall be advancing to R.E. Deputy Grand Master and R.E. Grand Generalissimo, respectively, and that Past Department Commander James McGee shall be appointed as Grand Captain General.

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

UPDATED 9/10/2021 11:50PM:
Past Grand Master Jeffrey N. Nelson has now weighed in with his own statement in defense of David Kussman:

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Petition Calls for Special Conclave Over Grand Encampment/GPA Saga

by Christopher Hodapp

That took almost no time at all.

In the wake of the official decisions regarding the Great Priory of America CBCS issued last week by Grand Master Michael Johnson of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the US, a website has already popped up with a petition to call for a Special Conclave in an attempt to finally put this issue to rest.

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the historical origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

Friday, September 03, 2021

It Goes On: Knights Templar GM Johnson Issues Decisions Against Great Priory CBCS

by Christopher Hodapp

It seems that the troublesome Grand Encampment/CBCS/Great Priory of America issue continues to rise up like the ghostly mists and miasmas that drift over once-bloody ancient battlefields, awakening the souls of the long-dead from their brief slumber 'neath the silent clods of the valley to forever walk the Earth in search of peace.

Or something like that.

At the Triennial of the Knights Templar Grand Encampment of the US last week, the assembled members of the Grand Encampment overwhelmingly voted to nullify former edicts and decisions from the last decade that had forbidden Templar members from belonging to the Great Priory of America (GPA) of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (CBCS), and expelled existing members of the GPA from its ranks. The resolution to bury the hatchet passed last week with more than 75% in favor. They also voted against a totally separate resolution (again with more than 75%) that attempted to declare the GPA clandestine.

(Forgive the imprecise wording here – I'm trying to summarize for the sake of brevity. You can see the actual resolutions HERE at this post from August 24th.)

With a super-majority voting in favor of putting this issue to rest, it would appear that the rank and file Knights are in favor of moving on. But it seems that GEKT/GPA feud hasn't ended after all. 

Or as said Stephen Boyd said to Charleton Heston after getting scuffed up in the chariot race in Ben Hur"It goes on!"

After little over a week in office, Grand Master Michael B. Johnson of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the US issued four official decisions (see image below) regarding the actions of the GEKT's Jurisprudence Committee, actions of the immediate Past Grand Master, and the CBCS Great Priory of America during the Triennial. Further, the final notice in his letter declares that, regardless of the vote taken at the Triennial, the GEKT still officially finds the GPA to be an "unrecognized Templar Order operating within the United States of America, in direct conflict with Section 3 of the Constitution of the Grand Encampment" and that membership in the GPA remains incompatible with membership in the GEKT (to enlarge, click images below):

Templars, interested bystanders, and train wreck enthusiasts who have been around for ten or fifteen years want to make this struggle about clashing egos and personalities, and there's no denying that has played a part. But there's a lot more to it besides "Let me in to your snooty club or I'll burn down your tree fort." 

The GEKT says the GPA is a competing Templar Order, based on the Latin wording identifying themselves that's found on their originating charter, and GPA says it isn't anything of the kind. Legal arguments center around the minutiae of each organizations' constitutional laws and regulations, and whether the GEKT has any right to claim what they've claimed and do what they've done over the last decade. 

Esotericists decry the GPA for holding the CBCS Rectified Rite degree system hostage in the U.S., suitable only for a little clot of Extra Special Masons. Indeed, the GPA declares on its website that the CBCS is "the summit of Christian Knighthood and is the only comparable Order in this country approaching civil knighthood in Europe. It is guarded carefully and only conferred infrequently upon those who are deemed worthy." 
The GPA is constitutionally restricted to no more than 100 members nationwide, and for much of their 78 year history, it's been less than 48. In fact, the GPA has protested when American Masons have traveled to foreign countries to receive the Rectified Right degrees in another priory, claiming this infringes on their territorial rights over the whole of the United States and, presumably, all of its Masonic citizens, even though the GPA  likely would never have invited those traveling Masons to join them. And they have long fought against the formation of additional U.S. priories.

Meanwhile, rank and file Masons want to know "This affects me...how?" Truth is, it doesn't. 

While the conflict appears close up to resemble a pair of bellowing mastodons having a go at each other over who owns the watering hole, in reality it is a distraction that continues to turn off potential Templar members who want nothing to do with what appears to them to be a pissing match between big-shots. Or as one former Sir Knight said to me years ago shortly before demitting, "The only reason the Templars wear swords as part of their uniforms is so their officers can stab each other in the back."

Not everybody has been following this epic saga for the last eleven years. Right Worshipful Brother Oscar Alleyne gave an online presentation ("What's the Beef?") earlier this week on a Refracted Light podcast about the origin of the CBCS and Great Priory of America, and the ongoing discord with the Grant Encampment. 

Oscar is a talented researcher and a careful presenter – his talk does not take sides, and he doesn't assign blame or virtue to anyone in this conflict personally. If you are interested in the history of the Rectified Rite, the CBCS, the GPA and the Grand Encampment's ongoing battle, give it a listen.

Meanwhile, "It goes on..."

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the historical origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

So. California Research Lodge Poll: 'Top 10 Books of the New Millennium'

by Christopher Hodapp

Most Masons who read the literature of the fraternity are well acquainted with the classic, must-have works that were primarily published in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by Preston, Mackey, Pike, Claudy, Newton, Wilmshurst, Hayward, Carr, Cerza and many, many others. 
But the brain boxes of Masonic knowledge aren't confined to the dusty past. Masonic scholarship didn't just come to a screeching halt the night that the Millennium Bug failed to destroy civilization when the world's computers flipped over to 1/1/01. Two decades into the 2000s, it's clear that we are blessed by many contemporary Masonic authors who continue to provide new discoveries, new insights, and new ways of looking at our lodges, rituals, symbols, philosophy, and even ourselves as Masons. 

With that in mind, the latest issue of Fraternal Review, the Southern California Research Lodge magazine, arrived today, and features the results of their latest reader’s poll, The Top 10 Masonic Books of the New Millennium (so far):
  1. Observing the Craft (2010) - Andrew Hammer
  2. Approaching the Middle Chamber (2020) - Jaime Paul Lamb
  3. Contemplative Masonry (2016) - C. R. Dunning
  4. The Mason's Words (2013) - Robert G. Davis
  5. Freemasons For Dummies (2005) - Christopher Hodapp
  6. Exploring Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry (2017) - Chris Murphy & Shawn Eyer
  7. Myth, Magic & Masonry (2018) - Jaime Paul Lamb
  8. Operative Freemasonry (2012) - Kirk C. White
  9. The Way of the Craftsman (2017) - W. Kirk MacNulty
  10. The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality (2020) - Angel Millar
I am proud and humbled (along with being continually astonished) that Freemasons For Dummies is on their latest list. I’m very appreciative to the editors of the magazine and especially to the Masons who responded to the poll and placed me in the midst of this august group. My thanks especially to managing editor WB Dago Rodriguez and to guest editor Jeriel Smith for their hard work and for conducting this poll.

Given the nature of the rest of the titles, it is even more surprising to me. The bulk of the books are mostly philosophical or esoteric in nature. Chris Murphy and Shawn Eyer's collection Exploring Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry is historic, but also explores the philosophy, thoughts and goals of Masons during the earliest years of the speculative fraternity. The number one book on the list, Observing the Craft by Andrew Hammer, is a practical guide to forming an observant style lodge. Mine is really the only general knowledge, general introductory book on the whole list. 

The editors of the magazine wrote:
"Judging by the voters' choices, it is apparent that today's Masonic readers are interested in the deeper connections Freemasonry enables a man to make with the self. A search for purpose, belonging and service are the themes most of these books touch upon and explore, that we believe has made them notable choices from the voting majority."
I will add that ALMOST making the list were (non-Mason) John Dickey's The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World (2020) and John Bizzack's Island Masonry (2017). Both of these excellent works just needed a handful of votes to make it on the list.

To celebrate the list, the Southern California Research Lodge is offering the complete collection of all 10 books in an EXTREMELY limited edition boxed set for $333 (shipping included). Most of the volumes in the New Millennium Book Collection are signed by their respective authors. 

Just 21 of these rare boxed sets are available and the sale doesn't kick off until Monday, September 6th. So, no early orders, please, and remember their office is on Pacific Time.

For more details, to join the research lodge, or to subscribe to Fraternal Review, go to: www.theresearchlodge.com

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' Streaming TV Series Premieres Sept. 16

by Christopher Hodapp

The second official trailer for the upcoming TV series, Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol has been released. Episode 1 premieres on Thursday, September 16th on NBC/Universal's Peacock streaming platform, and requires a subscription. New episodes will appear every Thursday.

The series is based on Brown's Masonic-themed 2009 thriller The Lost Symbol and stars Ashley Zukerman as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon.

By the way, you may be balking at the notion of paying for a $4.99/month subscription to the Peacock streaming channel just to see this one lone series. I know cable TV cord cutting has been the rage for many years now. But, IF you still are among the shrinking audience who still pays for a cable TV package, AND if your cable provider is Comcast/Xfinity, they are currently offering a free year's subscription to the Peacock service.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Illus. Peter J. Samiec Elected As New Commander of Scottish Rite NMJ: Glattly Retires

by Christopher Hodapp

IIllus. Peter J. Samiec 33° (photo above) has been elected and installed today as Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

The Supreme Council is meeting this week in Cleveland, Ohio for its Annual Session, and the announcement of now-Past Commander David A. Glattly's retirement came as a surprise to the Rite's rank and file members. 

Glattly was elected to the position five years ago, in August 2016. 

Illus. David A. Glattly has retired as Commander for the NMJ

The Active Membership of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) proudly announces the installation of Ill. Peter J. Samiec, 33°, as Sovereign Grand Commander on August 30, 2021 at the Annual Session in Cleveland.

The change in leadership comes as Ill. David A. Glattly, 33°, announces his retirement from the position.

Commander Samiec has served as Grand Lieutenant Commander under both Commander John William McNaughton and Commander Glattly. He has served as the Grand Almoner since 2015. He was Deputy for New York from 2008-13. Ill. Brother Samiec accepts the honor and responsibility to lead the Scottish Rite at an exciting time of reinvigoration and growth for the fraternity. He extends his sincere thanks to Past Sovereign Grand Commander Glattly for his leadership and dedication to the Scottish Rite during his term.

Said Commander Samiec, “Serving the past number of years as Grand Lieutenant Commander and as the Grand Almoner has been an honor for me. As I take on the role of overall leadership of the organization, I want to assure our members that we will continue our trajectory of growth and revitalization. First and foremost, we will continue to listen to our members and respond to their needs. We will be there for our Brothers in distress.

“We are living through one of the most invigorating and innovative times in the history of Scottish Rite. My passion for our fraternity, coupled with the energy and vision of our staff, will not settle for status quo. We will continue to aspire and build. We will continue to both lead and serve.

“I also sincerely thank former Commander Glattly for helping set a successful leadership transition,” concludes Samiec. “I wish him and wife Monica all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”

Commander Samiec was raised as Master Mason at St. Patrick’s Lodge #0004 in Johnstown, New York in 1982, and served as the Master of the Lodge in 1988. He served on a number of boards for the Grand Lodge of New York including the Benevolence Committee, the Grand Lodge Educational Assistance, and as a director of the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory.

He has been a Scottish Rite Mason for 38 years. He became an honorary member of the Supreme Council and Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33°, in 1998. He is member of the Valley of Schenectady and the Valley of the Hudson.

Past Commander Glattly leaves the Scottish Rite with a legacy of major accomplishments under his leadership:

  • The Rite researched, designed and funded the very effective "Not Just A Man: A Mason" advertising campaign promoting Masonic membership that has been embraced by lodges and grand lodges around the world. These materials continue to be provided to the Masonic community at no cost.
  • The Hauts Grades Academy is the first major educational program offered by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction for the continued study of the Rite's degrees and its lessons. 
  • The Rite's in-house video production team has created an extensive video library of programming. Glattly and the Rite openly embraced live and recorded internet events to communicate with members and to provide engaging programming online — several years before the COVID pandemic forced other Masonic organizations to play catch-up in this technology. 
  • And the Grand Almoner's Fund has grown dramatically and provided assistance to brethren and their families throughout the jurisdiction. 

Indiana University Establishes New Research Center for Fraternal Organizations

by Christopher Hodapp

Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana is now home to the newly established Center for Fraternal Collections & Research (CFCR), headed up by Dr. Heather Calloway. The CFCR will collect, preserve, and provide fraternal objects and ephemera for study and research in a permanent and accessible collection. 

During the "Golden Age of Fraternalism" from the end of the American Civil War until the Great Depression, over a thousand fraternal, ritual-based or "secret societies" formed in the U.S. Out of all of those hundreds and hundreds of societies with their millions upon millions of members, few survive today:  Odd Fellows, Eagles, Elks, Moose, Foresters, B'nai Brith, Knights of Columbus, Woodmen of the World, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, along with the Freemasons — these were the most commonly known American fraternal societies, and they still exist. But every year that passes, less and less evidence of them endures, especially the most obscure ones. 

Grand Encampment of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows
in Redding, California in October 1900. (Photo: Shasta Historical Society)

For too long, American fraternalism wasn't considered to be important enough for respectable historians to investigate. Yet the fraternal movement was critical to the building and strengthening of American communities, and every bit as important as churches, politics, activism and other local institutions. The "secret societies" were organized to support immigrant and racial groups, religious communities, to provide social assistance like burial or life insurance and retirement homes, to organize early patriotic or labor movements, or just become welcoming social clubs for the community in an increasingly urban society. Current generations have little or no understanding of the very existence and importance of these organizations, and too many of their publications, artwork, artifacts and jewelry disappear into the garbage or get melted down for their precious metals. 

At long last, there is a place where this important history can be found and preserved. With this announcement, IU becomes a welcome and secure repository for the quickly vanishing ephemera of American fraternal history. And the initial Board for the Center includes some notable names in the study of fraternalism:
  • If you've been around Freemasonry for a while, you may recognize director Dr. Heather Calloway from her fourteen years at the Scottish Rite SJ headquarters, the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C. 
    In 2018, she was hired as the first executive director of collections for Indiana University. The university has an estimated 220 collections comprised of about 30 million individual objects spread all across IU’s many campuses, schools, and departments all over the state.
  • Dr. S. Brent Morris is one of the world's most well-known and respected Masonic authors today. A list of the books he has written or edited and the Masonic organizations he has been associated with could fill a good-sized book by itself. Brent has recently retired from many years as the editor of the Scottish Rite Journal (for the Supreme Council Southern Jurisdiction), and continues to serve as editor for Heredom, the Scottish Rite Research Society's annual collection of papers. Most recently, Brent has resurrected the Masonic Book Club and continues to manage it.
  • Dr. Ken Moder is the founder and director of the J. H. Rathbone Museum of Fraternal History in Lafayette, Indiana. If you don't know of Ken and the Rathbone Museum, it has what may be described as one of the largest collections of fraternal organization artifacts, costumes, furniture, rituals and more in the world. Ken has been active in fraternal organizations for many years, including the Knights of Pythias, (Past Grand Secretary, Past Supreme Representative, and Knights of the Golden Spur for Indiana), Dramatic Order Knights of Khorrason, (Past Imperial Treasurer, Past Imperial Prince, and current Imperial Secretary). Ken also is a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, the current president of Masonic High Twelve Club #99 in Lafayette, and a B.P.O. Elk. Ken also serves as a director of the Historical Society for American Fraternalism and the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. 
  • Seth C. Anthony is a Pennsylvania Mason and the creator of the online Museum of Fezology. The site features items from Seth’s own extensive collection of fezzes, from the apparel of the American Woodmen to the masonic White Shrine of Jerusalem. Seth’s other collecting interests include banners, jewels, and ephemera related to fraternal organizations that are less well-known.
  • Mark Tabbert has been the director of library and museum collections for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia for sixteen years. Before that, he was curator for Masonic and fraternal collections at the Scottish Rite Library & Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. He is the author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities and the upcoming A Deserving Brotherthe definitive work about George Washington and his Masonic involvement throughout his life.  In 2012 he co-edited Secret Societies in America & Other Foundational Studies in Fraternalism. Mark is also a past president of the Masonic Library & Museum Association.
  • Wendy Waszut-Barrett, PhD is an author, archivist and artist, specializing in scenic art and stage systems for historic theaters in North America and Europe. For the past thirty-three years, Wendy has documented, preserved, and painted scenes for a variety of performance venues, including fraternal lodges, vaudeville theaters, opera houses, ethnic halls, and film. The preservation of theatrical and fraternal heritage, as well as the continued training of artists in historic painting methodologies and materials, is her passion. Wendy is the president of Historic Stage Services, LLC, a company specializing in historic scenery and stage systems. As an author, Wendy’s past publications include The Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple: Freemasonry, Architecture and Theatre (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2018), and numerous journal articles. She is a member of the International Organization of Scenographers, Technicians and Theatre Architects (OISTAT), United States Institute of Theatre Technology, the Canadian Institute of Theatre Technology, the Scottish Rite Research Society, and Phi Beta Kappa.
The CFCR is located in the new IU Collections, Teaching, Research and Exhibition Center, located in the historic McCalla building on the IU Bloomington campus. Following a $6 million renovation of this one-time elementary school building, the center now provides a safe, climate controlled facility for collections, plus seven display galleries, meeting areas, and a state-of-the-art media digitization and preservation department, all under one roof.

From their announcement:
We are an Indiana University research center devoted to the collecting, protecting, and sharing of fraternal collections for the sake of research and public engagement. We hope to improve scholarship and understanding of fraternal groups, explore their impact on American society, and elucidate their importance across time and to different social groups.

Whether you are interested in famous fraternal traditions such as Freemasonry, influential women's auxiliaries and orders, fraternal groups that served important roles in African American or other communities, or other orders that have served as cornerstones to American cities and towns, we hope that you will find the Center for Fraternal Collections and Research to be an exciting and welcoming place for your academic and personal inquiry.
Scholarly support
The center will provide three types of scholarly support to IU students and faculty, non-IU scholars, and the public:
  • The collection and stewardship of rare fraternal organization materials donated to Indiana University, for the sake of scholarly research.
  • Creating and supporting research related to fraternal studies at the student and faculty scholarly levels.
  • Disseminating research and information related to fraternal studies via public events, academic symposia, exhibitions, media presentations, and publication.
For more than a decade, our own Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana has benefitted greatly from our association with the Indiana University/Purdue University/Indianapolis Museum Studies program. Interns from that program have been invaluable to us for adopting proper collections and preservation methods, accessioning objects, creating new displays, and much more. Combined with the IU Bloomington Curatorship Program, Indiana University offers one of the top degree and post-graduate programs in the U.S. for students seeking museum and library careers. So the news of the Center for Fraternal Collections & Research is an outstanding development.

As an aside, Dr. Calloway and several of the Center's board members have also formed the Historical Society for American FraternalismAs the HSAF website says on its home page, "Understanding American Fraternalism is a means to understand how generations of American built stable communities within restless and ever-changing society."

Central to the HSAF's mission is an up-to-date, comprehensive and searchable list of these groups in its online Encyclopedia HERE.

Tennessee Joint Recognition Treaty Signing October 2nd

by Christopher Hodapp

Back in March, the assembled members of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Tennessee voted in favor of joint recognition with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee. On Saturday, October 2nd, the Grand Masters of both jurisdictions — MW Charles W. Mixon of the GLofTN and  MW L. Lamont Banks — will sign an official treaty of joint recognition at a public ceremony.

The open event will be held at the downtown Nashville Masonic Temple at 100 7th Avenue, beginning at 2PM.

There remain just six states in which joint recognition has not yet been achieved: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Templar Eye Foundation Offers Historic 19th Century 'Knight Templar Monitor' Reprint

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATED 8/31/2021 at 11:30PM: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that this is a leather-bound edition. I have also added more ordering options at the end of the story.

In the late 1880s, Sir Knight George Cooper Connor of Tennessee made a florid, handwritten transcript of the rituals of the Masonic Knights Templar Orders of the Red Cross, Malta and the Temple for use in the Grand Commandery of Tennessee. His manuscript later became a basis for the development of the adopted Templar Orders we know today. Now researchers and students of the evolution of Masonic-related rituals have a beautiful new historical reprint to pore over, thanks to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation and Lookout Commandery No. 14 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This hard-bound reprint of George Cooper Connor's Templar Monitor was designed by Brother Steve Adams, who has designed and illustrated several recent books for the Scottish Rite Research Society. The Monitor includes commentary from PGC George Marshall, KGT, on the ritual of each of the Orders, and the publication reflects the tireless efforts of SK Piers Vaughan, KCT. Like some recent Scottish Rite NMJ publications of the Francken Manuscript and several early French Masonic manuscripts, this volume features Connor's beautifully handwritten text and illustrations on one page, and a modern typeset version with new, clearer graphic illustrations and diagrams on the facing page. 

Unlike the relatively simple choreography of degree floor work in a Craft Lodge, the Templar Orders require more cast members and much more complexity of movement with the candidate throughout the asylum. Consequently, Cooper's original manuscript included many hand-drawn watercolor images relating to staging each of the Orders, along with illustrating the design of the jewels of the Orders.

Connor served as Right Eminent Grand Commander and Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee. He later served as Grand Recorder of the Grand Commandery of Tennessee as well as serving on several committees of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar US. You will find more information about him in the preface to the book, along with items regarding his Templar Funeral Service and the Templars and dignitaries from around the nation who attended his funeral.

There is a limited supply of the Templar Monitor, and it is being offered as a fundraising item for the Knight Templar Eye Foundation. The price is $150 and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the KTEF. Please note that there are no online sales offered at this time. To purchase it, you must CLICK HERE, print, and mail the order form along with a check or money order, or fax the form with your credit card information. I'm only reporting it.

I'm also informed that it can be ordered by phone from the Foundation office at 214-888-0220.

(Images are shamelessly snagged from Steve Adams' Facebook page.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Knightly News from 2021 Grand Encampment Triennial

NOTE - My apologies for the delay of this post. I've been experiencing tech issues off and on for several weeks and this one somehow got caught in a queue that said it was published when it really wasn't.

by Christopher Hodapp

The 68th Triennial Conclave of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar is wrapping up in Minneapolis this evening. The following Sir Knights have been elected to serve the Grand Encampment for the 69th Triennium: 
  • Most Eminent Grand Master: Michael Burke Johnson 
  • Right Eminent Deputy Grand Master: David Kussman
  • Right Eminent Grand Generalissimo: Jeffrey Bolstad 
  • Right Eminent Grand Captain General: Jack Harper 
  • Right Eminent Grand Treasurer: Bobby Simmons
  • Right Eminent Grand Recorder: Larry Tucker

Noteworthy Legislation

A couple of interesting pieces of legislation were voted on at this week's session. There were an incredible 28 pieces of legislation to be acted upon, but three in particular got lots of attention in online discussions:

Revival of the historic Templar apron

If you've visited the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, you may have spotted this portrait of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, better known in America simply as General Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution. In the 1820s, Lafayette returned to the United States and made an extensive tour of the expanding nation he helped during its war for independence. While in Virginia, he posed for this portrait that depicts him wearing an unusual Masonic apron that features a skull and crossbones. What you may not have known is that it's a Knights Templar apron. 

The historic 'skull and bones' Templar apron from the 18th and 19th centuries has been approved by the Grand Encampment for use during tyled Templar meetings, and it may be worn over Class A uniforms. Honestly, I've been hearing about attempts to bring it back ever since I joined this fraternity in 1998. In fact, more than 30 years ago, a paper was published in the Knight Templar Magazine by Ron Blaisdell that will tell you more information than you'd ever want to know about this unusual bit of Templar regalia. Read it HERE.

The resolution approving the apron passed by more than 75% of the votes.

In addition to reviving the old apron, a contemporary triangular apron design (without the skull and including the crown and cross symbol on a white background) was also approved for use in public ceremonies and events. The approved apron design is such that it can be manufactured with the historic skull on one side, and the public image design on the flip side. (Click the two images below to enlarge.)

What's up with this fascination with skulls, you may ask? The medieval Knights Templar actually adopted the skull and crossed leg bones as an occasional symbol during their time in the Holy Land to frighten and intimidate the Infidels in battle. Some have claimed that the image was also used as the flag for Templar ships, and after their suppression in 1307, it was eventually co-opted by pirates. 

Today, as more and more Masons are taking an interest in the esoteric side of our rituals and symbolism, they've become quite familiar with the memento mori and its ancient warning to remember that life is fleeting, and that a man should live every day as though it might be his last. 

If you come from a Christian background and a denomination that marks Ash Wednesday by making a cross on the forehead using black ash, the words that accompany this ritual are "Remember that you are dust, and unto dust, you shall return." If you travel throughout Europe, there are many catacombs, and even chapels, with skulls and bones of the dead used for walls, arches and general cheery decor. They are a constant reminder of mortality, and as Horace reminds us, "Pale death knocks with the same tempo upon the huts of the poor and the towers of Kings."

Reminders of Death as a constant companion weren't particularly seen as creepy in earlier centuries, in part because death was so prevalent in everyday life. In large families, the death of one or more children before reaching adulthood was all too common, and life expectancy for adults was much shorter than today. Communicable diseases commonly wiped out whole families, villages and towns all across the globe. Wars with tens of thousands of casualties on all sides devastated entire nations, and during World War I, it was nearly impossible to find a family anywhere in Europe who hadn't lost a father, son or brother in that conflict. 

The historical, triangular 'skull and crossbones' apron was part of the Masonic Knights Templar regalia from the 1770s until the 1860s within the tyled confines of a Commandery meeting or degree – it's described as part of the uniform used in meetings in Thomas Smith Webb's Freemason's Monitor in 1808. 

Because all of the York Rite degrees were originally designed to be conferred in a Masonic lodge, the Templar apron was considered an extension of the use of a Masonic apron required for all work and meetings. By the 1830s, the black military-like uniform we're all familiar with was already taking form, but there were a lot of local variation in them from state to state and commandery to commandery. 

An attempt was made in 1859 by the Grand Encampment to demand national uniform conformity, which included a black uniform with a white surcoat or tunic, and essentially banned the skull apron (interestingly for ALL Templars, EXCEPT Washington Commandery No. 1). Think about that realistically — keep a white uniform clean while riding around on horseback. Consider that Templary was already the most expensive of all Masonic orders to participate in because of the uniform, swords, ostritch-feathered chapeau, PLUS special Templar riding accessories like decorative stirrup covers and protective cuffs if you planned to ride in a parade team. The demand for this new standard uniform by the Grand Encampment wasn't scorned or loudly protested against — local commanderies simply ignored it.

It wasn't just the U.S. Grand Encampment Templars that stuck with the skull apron. Even the Prince Hall Commanderies held on to them throughout the 19th century.

Nevertheless, after the 1860s and the end of the Civil War, the use of the skull apron in meetings as part of the KT's uniform started to fall by the wayside. Among many there was a growing concern that its symbolism might be misunderstood by the public (especially since more and more Templars were having newfangled photographic portraits made of themselves dressed in full regalia, and non-Masons could suddenly see the skull and bones apron without sneaking into a meeting). That misunderstanding would only increase in the 20th century, when skulls and crossbones became identified with poison chemical labels, pirates, horror movies and the "death's head" cap badge on Nazi SS uniforms.

In any case 75.96% of the Sir Knights at the Triennial this week approved the apron's use. While it's approved by Grand Encampment, this must be adopted and approved in your state by your Grand Commandery first, if it is not in your uniform regulations. Remember that the "historical" skull apron is for asylum use only, while the "contemporary" apron is approved for public or private use. The preference is to wear an apron over the class A uniform coat — it is NOT considered as a replacement for the uniform (in case you thought you could get out of buying a full uniform and just showing up in street clothes and the apron).

And if you're looking for a new one, Masonic Revival offers a skull apron: https://masonicrevival.com/collections/aprons/products/knightstemplar-apron

If anyone can provide a link to a supplier of the new contemporary public apron, please pass it along and I'll update this entry.

'Attestation of faith' on petitions fails

The second piece of legislation that attracted lots of attention was a proposed requirement to be placed on future Templar petitions stating that the petitioner affirms his Christian faith in writing. Unlike most other appendant organizations associated with Freemasonry, the Knights Templar requires that a petitioner must be a professed Christian, and that demand causes some heartburn with Masons who aren't Christians, or who believe that this somehow violates the spirit of Freemasonry and the Ancient Charges.

Nevertheless, the Masonic Knights Templar order has had belief in Christianity as a requirement since the 1760s when it first appeared. Such a prerequisite is without question "exclusionary," but nowhere is it promised that absolutely everyone has an absolute right to experience absolutely every single degree in absolutely every Masonic-related organization, absolutely. The Order itself is based upon the medieval Templars who held a unique position that straddled both the ecclesiastical and the temporal spheres as "warrior monks." Removing the Christian elements from the Templar ritual would leave nothing but an empty husk.

Over the decades, some local Commanderies and even state Grand Commanderies have tried to hedge on the Christian membership requirement. Some jurisdictions phrase their petitions with squishier language, requiring no more than a belief in a "higher power," while others merely ask that a petitioner be willing to "defend the Christian religion." That's a loophole big enough to drive a Sherman tank through. But the Statutes of the Grand Encampment are quite specific. Section 177(b) requires that a petitioner for the Orders must be a "firm believer in the Christian religion."

However, the amendment that was up for a vote this week went beyond merely asking a petitioner if he is a firm believer in Christianity. The proposed Attestation of Faith required the petitioner to declare himself to be a Christian specifically "as defined in the four Gospels (Matthew 16:16, John 3:15-17, Acts 4:10-12, and Romans 9-10)"

Click the image below to enlarge it and read the entire proposed statement in its entirety.

While most of the Knights in attendance at the Triennial felt the statement was well-founded and good-intentioned, the attestation itself was clumsily written, resulting in confusion and contention. While all Templars are supposed to be Christians, the enormous range of Christian denominations have variations in teachings concerning the role of the Holy Spirit. As a result, debates over the Resolution's wording quickly went into the weeds over definitions and details of Christ's crucifixion, resurrection from the dead, time spent with the Apostles including the Last Supper, and his ascension.

An attempt was made to amend the Resolution in order to simplify the statement. That amendment to the Resolution was submitted in writing in advance of the Triennial, and it was found to be in proper form by the Jurisprudence Committee. The amendment essentially struck out the entire text of the proposed Attestation to read simply:
"I profess the Christian Faith: that through the Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, believers are saved and redeemed."
According to attendees, this amended version received a simple majority (53.31%) of yes votes, but did not meet the two-thirds super majority required for an amendment to the statutes. It's possible that if the original resolution had simply been this wording in the first place, it would have passed.

Resolutions restore amity with Great Priory of America of the CBCS

If you know nothing of what this whole imbroglio was about, and you have no idea who or what the CBCS is, don't feel somehow that your Masonic knowledge is lacking. This situation is as about as deep into the waist-high weeds of Masonic appendant bodies as it gets.
The third noteworthy bit of legislation was Resolution 2021-23, rescinding 2012-01 and Duane Vaught Decision No. 5 which had previously declared the Great Priory of America (GPA) of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (CBCS) to be an unrecognized Masonic Templar Order. Because of that situation, members of the Grand Encampment who held membership in the Great Priory of America were deemed to be in violation of their knightly vows. This Resolution rescinding that status passed with more than 77% of yes votes.
Further, a second proposed Resolution (2021-26) which called for the automatic expulsion of any member of the GEKT who sought or held membership in the GPA, was voted down by the delegates. 
This hopefully brings an end to more than a decade of hostility, broken friendships, and scuttled Masonic careers.
The long, twisting, epic saga of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar and attempts beginning back in 2011 to establish a new CBCS Rectified Rite priory in the US turned into an all-out war of words and lawsuits between the GEKT and the existing CBCS Great Priory of America. Sadly, this mess wound up dividing some of the most respected leaders in North American Freemasonry into two warring factions. And then the lawyers got involved.
Much of that battle played out right here on my blog, I'm sorry to say. Rather than re-describe, re-hash and re-litigate this episode, I will point to this post from December 2010 for background on what set this whole drama in motion:

Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of the United States of America

Over the next two or three years I wrote more posts about the situation (if you really have a burning desire to wade into it, use the search menu on this blog and look for articles with CBCS, Rectified Rite, or Grand Priory in them). 

In full disclosure, I freely admitted at the time that I was part of the group in favor of establishing the new CBCS priory under the authority of the Grand Encampment. The GPA was established in the U.S. in 1934 and quickly turned into little more than a supper club for a tiny, select group of  Masons ("Because", as one wag joked to me, "the 33rds were letting in too much riff-raff"). Their membership never exceeded about four dozen at any one time. Yet, they controlled any working of the Rectified Rite degrees in the U.S., as a result. This post is not the place to drift into a windy explanation of Martinism and the different degree systems that grew out of its three variants in the 18th and 19th centuries. But many of us at the time felt that this beautiful, philosophical and deeply complex degree system was being held hostage by a group that had no desire or intention of actually working those rituals themselves.

So, in 2012 the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar obtained a charter in France from a CBCS body there, and they sought to expand the CBCS in the U.S. to a wider Masonic membership. And that, as they say in stories about ugly divorces, is when the fight started.

Much time has passed, leadership of both the Grand Encampment and the Great Priory of America has changed, and emotions and passions have hopefully cooled. Clearly, the general membership of the Grand Encampment decided this year that they've had enough of being involved in this conflict.

As a very dear friend often says, "So it goes."

All of that having been said, the reasons for attempting to bring the CBCS degrees to a wider group of U.S. Masons still remain valid, and certainly not for some absurd notion of "let other VIP Masons in to your exclusive club." The growing interest in esoteric orders within Masonry should not be blunted and locked away out of some twisted sense that it's only for the cool kids.

Honors and Awards

• SK Brandon Mullins of Michigan was inducted as the first member of a new order of Masonic knights Templar scholars, the Order of Clairvaux. Admission to this prestigious institution is restricted to just one Sir Knight each Triennium. SK Mullins presented his paper about the use of skull imagery in Templary – a timely topic, given the apron legislation this year.

• SK W. Bruce Pruitt, the senior Past Grand Commander of California, was elected a Most Eminent Honorary Past Master of the Grand Encampment and elevated to Grand Cross Templar.

• SK Art F. Hebbeler III, Grand Prelate of the Grand Encampment, received the Knight Grand Cross.

• SK Dicky W. Johnson (Tennessee) was made a Honorary Past Grand Prelate of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the USA.

(Please alert me if I missed anyone.)

And finally...

Congratulations to all Grand Encampment officers, and especially to MEGM Michael Johnson, whom I've known for many years. Mike is from Crowheart, Wyoming where he and his wife Judy own a cattle ranch, and he served as Grand Master in 2015-16. Mike became a cowboy fresh out of high school, and the Grand Encampment's webpage features an image of him in his Templar uniform while riding horseback. It's been a very long time since most of us have seen a  Grand Master of Knights Templar on horseback, but Templar horse teams were commonplace in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Sadly, in this Age of Snark we're all living through, right after this image was posted on Facebook, a tiny squall went up over it. 

Out of touch! 
The expense! 
Terrible image!
Grand Encampment wasting our per capita buying horses! (Um, no...)

And, naturally, 
a couple of commentators suggested that if the GM wished to be truly authentic, he should be sharing that saddle with a second Templar knight...

Does anyone actually engage their brain anymore before yawping on anti-social media? Mike owns his own horses, for heaven's sake, and the image was actually a homage to the Templar heritage when many drill competitions were between mounted teams. (Nothing unusual about that - how do these critics think Masons got to their meetings in the 1760s or 1850s in the first place? It might even be fair to say that in their 20th-century heyday, the mounted horse Templar teams were the ‘Shriners driving little cars’ of their era.)

UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PM

Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the historical origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.